MLB in Vegas could happen
February 06, 2019 3:00 AM
by Phil Hevener
With the Super Bowl in the books, now’s a good time to talk baseball – Major League Baseball – and what it can be expected to add to the Las Vegas scene.
The talk about bringing an MLB team to town appears to be heating up as Southern Nevada’s appeal continues its transformation and new people with big ideas come to town. And expanded legal sports wagering offers new markets for growth.
I recall MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren speaking to gaming industry analysts a year or two ago about his hopes of bringing people to a mindset that would have them thinking of Las Vegas as a sports fan’s kind of travel destination.
He has done that. And there is more to come.
The success of the Golden Knights is a matter of record both in terms of their won-lost record in the NHL and in terms of their ability to regularly attract near capacity crowds of some 18,000 fans every night at T-Mobile Arena.
Professional sports executives have noticed. And what they are telling themselves is,”I want some of that.”
As the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders know, Their $1.8 billion stadium will be ready for the 2020 NFL season. It’s too soon to talk about crowd counts, but the Oakland Raiders have always had a strong local following.
Which brings us to the NBA, whose top officials have already shown a fondness for what Las Vegas. The arrival of an NBA team is just a matter of time.
I have no knowledge of what issues may exist in some of the secondary travel destinations that now have an NBA team but you don’t need to be rocket scientist to grasp the possibilities.
That’s also true of baseball, although far less information has seeped into public at the moment. several sources say there is talk about building a major league stadium on some of the nearly 100 acres occupied by the Rio, which fronts on Flamingo Road just west of Interstate 15. Whether a stadium is built at that location or some other site is unknown.
But “casual” conversation has a way of turning into a deal when the right people get together. It has happened before.
Caesars Entertainment owns the Rio and its location guarantees that the land and the Rio itself will get continue getting serious attention for some sort of billion-dollar venture. Nearly 10 years ago, former chairman Gary Loveman identified the Rio as a non-core property, which probably has not received a lot of serious attention from its owner.
At least two casino companies – and probably more – have shown an interest in buying it. But nothing has happened. It’s a little surprising Houston-based billionaire Tilman Fertitta has not been heard from since his bid to take control of Caesars last year was rejected by the company.
There would be numerous concerns about building a ballpark on the Rio site, not the least of which would be traffic and parking. But that’s a topic for down the road.
So one step at a time. Las Vegas is moving closer to embracing Major League Baseball and the extended list of possibilities available to travelers looking for a Las Vegas experience.
Local tourism officials were expecting more than 300,000 people to travel to arrive for Super Bowl weekend in Vegas with a projected economic impact of $426 million.
The figures from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority represented a $1.4 million increase over Super Bowl weekend a year ago.
Gamblers wagered more than $158 million on the big game at Nevada’s nearly 200 sportsbooks last year, $20.1 million better than the year before.
That record was expected to be shattered from Sunday’s game.
But sportsbook revenue is just one piece of a big picture. Spending in all properties, from the gaming floor to rooms, entertainment options such as nightclubs and restaurants makes a very positive difference.
There are no $50-a-night room specials, not for a big event such as Super Bowl weekend.
Yes, Las Vegas continues zipping along at warp speed beyond its old reputation as a dusty desert gambling.
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